How can a mistranslation of a pamphlet affect you?

All kinds of mistranslation

Social networks and virtual meeting spaces between translators are witnessing every day how the industry debates all kinds of mistranslation issues: from reading recommendations to alternative translation solutions for confusing words or expressions. The subject matter is as changeable as reality itself and, in recent months, issues in the pharmaceutical field have been on the lips of many colleagues.

Pharmaceutical translation services -

Health-related issues are usually in high demand, as they respond to situations that affect many people on a daily basis; and we have been experiencing an acceleration in these circumstances for a few months now. In a short time, scientists around the world have had to act quickly and join forces to set in motion a process as slow and rigorous as vaccine development. Such a global collaboration necessarily implies that someone has to translate all those communications and, moreover, not just in any way, since the pharmaceutical texts contain more than one feature that you should know about. So, let’s get started!

Pharmaceutical translation

Pharmaceutical translation is a field that needs careful attention, not only because of the unpronounceable terminology, but also because of the added difficulty that – no, it’s not a manner of speaking – many people’s lives depend on you. Pharmaceutical texts, moreover, have a very specific structure that is also worth being aware of. For example, in the package insert of a pharmaceutical, the translation of each section and sub-section must be clear and direct; that is, it must help the person in the event of serious side effects or if they simply wants to know for what kind of ailment a medicine that has not been used for a long time is suitable. Imagine that the sections were full of unnecessary jargon and flowery words. How long would it take that person to find what they were looking for? Translating technical jargon is not something to be taken lightly and doing it well can be lifesaving.

So, given the complexity of these types of texts, who should you look for to ensure a job well done? FAST.txt, of course. Pharmaceutical translation is closely related to medical and patent translation in terms of language accuracy and the rigorous protocols that these types of documents must go through. Pharmacology and medicine are two branches of knowledge that overlap, complement each other and work together to a certain extent, and drugs have to be presented in a patented format and pass a series of stages before they can be marketed.

Cooperation contracts

Translators with experience in this field are familiar with these protocols and, of course, are aware of the degree of responsibility for the outcome at the public health level. Nor can one overlook the fact that these texts are subject to strict confidentiality – one of the key points of the profession’s code of ethics, by the way – as well as being directly related to the corporate image in the country in which they are to be launched. Let us not forget that being a good professional not only means doing a good job, but also keeping up to date with cooperation contracts and with any new developments in the pharmaceutical or other sectors in which they are involved, which are always changing. Not complying with good practices can lead both the translator and the company to fall into a situation of unfair competition – either through confusion, in the case of an incorrect translation, or through deception, in the case of falsifications, omission of information, etc. – with the consequent legal consequences.

In Europe, the body responsible for regulating medicines and carrying out appropriate quality control is the European Medicines Agency (EMA), specifically the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use. In Spain we have a representative body, the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Healthcare Products, which is “responsible for guaranteeing society, from a public service perspective, the quality, safety, efficacy and correct information on medicines and healthcare products, from their research to their use, in the interests of protecting and promoting human health, animal health and the environment”.

Documentation and reliable information

Translators who specialize in medicine, pharmacology and similar subjects can go to these places for documentation and reliable information. Resources and research are a translator’s best friend; however, in such technical contexts, where much of the terminology is not part of the common language, dictionaries, thesauri and databases will not only be the friend to go with for coffee, but the one to keep their eyes open while they work when they want to go to sleep.

What is clear is that one must not scrimp on investing in translation, especially when the level of specialization and responsibility is so high that it could have dire consequences. My intention in writing this is not to frighten the reader, but it is worth warning of the degree of difficulty involved. Poorly done work in this area means that what you save on translation, you will sooner or later have to spend on the consequences of any mistakes ­– and probably much more. The ultimate responsibility will be on the client for not having relied on a good professional such as FAST.txt. Thinking about it, it’s also a question of profitability and it’s worth it, isn’t it?

If you want more information and to know what other types of documents related to pharmacology can be translated by FAST.txt, you can find it here:

Written by: Lucía Blázquez García, specialized translator